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Thursday, January 17, 2019

M. Night Shyamalan’s 'Glass' Brings the Director's Trilogy to a Ho-Hum Conclusion

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 9:08 AM

  • Universal Pictures
A sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable and 2016’s Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass completes a trilogy that the writer-director had reportedly originally intended before he changed the Unbreakable script and then made the character he had left out of that film into the subject of Split.

Yes, it’s all very meta, and Glass is a heady (and often hokey) movie that tries too hard to tie together the two movies and launch a new series of films. Screenings of the film commence tonight, and it opens area-wide tomorrow.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

The Tangier to Host a Benefit Screening and Concert for Local Pianist Kofi R. Boakye

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 1:50 PM

In a short amount of time, 19-year-old pianist Kofi R. Boakye has put together a pretty impressive resume. The Akron musician has toured Germany and Prague with the Miller South Show Choir. At the age of 15, he was accepted into the University of Akron School of Music’s Jazz Program, making him the youngest African-American pianist to ever be accepted into a collegiate-level jazz program at the University of Akron.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Movie Theater at Shaker Square to Change Hands from Cleveland Cinemas to Atlas Cinemas

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 3:37 PM

No more beer and wine at this concession stand when Atlas takes over. - FACEBOOK.COM / SHAKER SQUARE CINEMAS
  • / Shaker Square Cinemas
  • No more beer and wine at this concession stand when Atlas takes over.

At the end of its lease this month, Cleveland Cinemas will step away from the movie theater at Shaker Square after failing to come to mutually agreeable terms with the property owner, Coral Co.

Atlas Cinemas, another local chain, will take over the six-screen theater on the southwest corner of the Square and plans to reopen after some interior sprucing up.

Cleveland Cinemas has operated the Art Deco theater since 2000. With this departure, its remaining properties will be the Cedar Lee (its first and still its flagship), Tower City, the Capitol, the Apollo in Oberlin and Southside Works Cinema in Pittsburgh.

The Plain Dealer's Michelle Jarboe reports that prices may go down slightly when Atlas assumes management at Shaker Square, and that, among other minor changes, the theater will no longer serve alcoholic refreshments.

The Atlas ownership group, much like Cleveland Cinemas, seems eager to show indie, local and special-event fare alongside mainstream releases.


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Friday, January 4, 2019

Scene's Extremely Authoritative Top 10 Movie List for 2018

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 12:37 PM

Toni Collette in Hereditary. NOMINATE HER. - A24
  • A24
  • Toni Collette in Hereditary. NOMINATE HER.

As I do every year, I've assembled my ten favorite films, a task that's extremely labor-intensive, but which I nevertheless enjoy. For whatever reason, it became fashionable this year — on Twitter, anyhow — to trash-talk year-end lists. (Evidently no one likes them anymore.) But I'm here to represent the position that year-end lists are valuable and fun, assuming they come from sources you like and/or trust and have been assembled with care and attention.

Rest assured that this one has been assembled with both.

Since 2016, I've standardized my rating system using a 25-point scale: five points for script; five for acting; five for technical elements (visual effects, editing, sound/score, etc.); five for aesthetic elements (cinematography, production design, costumes, etc.); and five that I reserve for myself, a personal bonus that often correlates with how much I like a movie, irrespective of its perceived quality.

I've seen so many films in December that it's difficult to grade the year in cinema as a whole. But purely anecdotally, there seem to have been more than the typical number of solid 17s (e.g., A Quiet Place); 18s (e.g. Bohemian Rhapsody, Game Night); 19s (A Star is Born, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Crazy Rich Asians) and even 20s (Isle of Dogs) on my list this year, in addition to the slew of 13-and-under trash and forgettable 14-15-16 fare.

For the record, I have yet to see the following: Boy Erased, Cold War, Eighth Grade, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, Suspiria, and They Shall Not Grow Old.

The following films scored a 21/25 and were on the cusp of the Top 10. In fact, they're virtually interchangeable with (#10-6) below: Thoroughbreds, Can You Ever Forgive Me, First Man, Widows.

But here's my "Official" Top 10, (forever subject to change):

10) FREE SOLO (My rating: 21/25; Metascore: 83)
dir. by Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi; starring Alex Honnold

The year's best documentary is about one of the greatest athletic achievements in human history: Alex Honnold's scaling, without ropes, of the 3,000-foot El Capitan rock face at Yosemite National Park. It not only features some of the year's best cinematography, which might have been expected from peerless alpine documentarian Jimmy Chin and his camera team; but also one of the year's best characters. The fact that Honnold is a real dude doesn't diminish the pressing narrative question at the film's center: Why risk so much — one's life, obviously, but also others' pain — to achieve an outlandish personal goal? Is it worth it? You won't find a stretch of 30 minutes in any film this year during which you're more perilously perched on the edge of your seat than Honnold's ultimate ascent.

9) ANNIHILATION (My rating: 21/25; Metascore: 79)
dir. by Alex Garland; starring Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson

Adapted from the sci-fi novel by Jeff Vandermeer, Alex Garland's follow-up to 2016's superb Ex Machina follows a team of women who venture beyond a gasoline-slick membrane into a metastasizing zone called the "shimmer" from which no one has safely returned. It functions as a metaphor, among other things, for ungovernable depression. Folks, this one's got stupefying visuals and the craziest climax of the year.

8) MANDY (My rating: 21/25; Metascore: 81)
dir. by Panos Cosmatos; starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough

Hated it. Then loved it. Hands down the trippiest and probably the second-bloodiest movie of 2018 (trailing only Netflix's The Night Comes for Us), and as wild a ride as any I've ever experienced in a movie theater. It is demented. It is unpleasant. There were times I felt almost physically ill. It was too intimate. Too out-there. Too sick. But somewhere along in the second act, and all through a vengeful third —  a straight nightmare rampage — it became somehow mesmerizing. Dare I say beautiful? It's a descent into something primal and phantasmagoric and dark. And despite the gore's pervasiveness, it is a creative gore, an attentive gore. These aren't the mindless headshots of the very stupid John Wick, for example; these are choreographed dances of death. (I don't know if this is a plus or minus, morally speaking, but it's worlds more visually stimulating.)  

7) SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (My rating: 21/25; Metascore: 80)
dir. by Boots Riley; starring LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson

It's easy to think of Sorry to Bother You as "this year's Get Out." And seeing as both are high-concept films that deal explicitly with race, the comparison is apt. But Boots Riley's telemarketing satire is wackier and more adventurous — though no less thematically explosive — than Jordan Peele's hugely acclaimed debut last year. The story barely dangles from its hinges, but it nevertheless sparkles with zaniness and an almost improvisational unpredictability. Among its rarest accomplishments: favorably depicting a union-organizing story line.

(Scene review by Jeff Niesel 7/11/2018: ...has so much going for it that even if it falters at times, it doesn't detract from its inventiveness.)

Toni Collette in Hereditary. NOMINATE HER. - A24
  • A24
  • Toni Collette in Hereditary. NOMINATE HER.
6) HEREDITARY (My rating: 21/25; Metascore: 87)
dir. by Ari Aster; starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff

There at least three indelible images, plus two supremely disturbing scenes, that I still can't shake, having seen this gemstone of terror back in June. It's a horror masterpiece — I would say the year's best, but haven't seen Suspiria — from a rookie director no less, that's just as emotionally devastating as it is "scary" in a conventional sense. Indeed, therein lies the horror. Toni Collette better get an Oscar nomination for her singular turn as an artist who loses her mother, and then a WHOLE LOT MORE. Goodness me.   

5) FIRST REFORMED (My rating: 22/25; Metascore: 85)
dir. by Paul Schrader; starring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried

From the very first shot — a small, upstate New York church towers over us — Paul Schrader's probing and ultimately shocking film had me hooked. It's a moral inquiry, which more directly explores contemporary spirituality and politics than almost any movie I've ever seen. It's also a profound character study that benefits from a script and lead actor that both absolutely go for broke.

4) BLACKKKLANSMAN (My rating: 23/25; Metascore: 83)
dir. by Spike Lee; starring John David Washington, Adam Driver

While it's the year's most explicit commentary on the racism of the Trump era, it's also the most effective. It follows a young black police officer in 1970s Colorado who infiltrates his local KKK chapter using a white body double. A pitch-perfect cast and Lee's insistent nods to the durability of racism — "America First," chant the white hoods — make this not only among the year's most watchable films, but also among the most uncomfortable and the most vital. 

(Scene review by Sam Allard 8/8/18: "Lee is a master stylist whose films – at least in my experience – are a lot easier to appreciate than they are to enjoy. Not so with BlackkKlansman.")

3) BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (My rating: 23/25; Metascore: 60)
dir. by Drew Goddard; starring Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo

Disparaged as a Tarantino knockoff, no doubt for its chaptered structure, this stylish noir mystery, from Cabin in the Woods' Drew Goddard, was a shotgun blast of fresh air. It suffered at the box office mostly because of poor marketing, in my view. Set at a hotel on the border of California and Nevada, this one never ceases to surprise, delight and exhilarate as it unfolds, perspective by perspective.

2) THE FAVOURITE (My rating: 24/25; Metascore: 90)
dir. by Yorgos Lanthimos; starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz

Director Yorgos Lanthimos has taken a period piece about two women feuding for the Queen of England's favor, and suffused it with dark and sometimes rollicking satire. Olivia Colman delivers one of the strongest performances of the year, but a decadently costumed ensemble all upholster this devilishly fun dark comedy, in which the surfaces are as exquisite and complex as the substances beneath.   

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 12/12/18: "Somehow both more and less weird than [Lanthimos'] previous two, but equally rich in style, eccentricity and humor.")

1) THE RIDER (My rating, 25/25; Metascore: 92)
dir. By Chloe Zhao; starring Brady Jandreau, Cat Clifford

An elegiac masterpiece unlike anything I've ever seen. It’s about a teenage rodeo rider in South Dakota who, after sustaining a head injury, understands that the future he envisioned for himself has been foreclosed. But the characters are all portrayed by the real-life humans on which they’re based, so the emotional power derives (during and long after the viewing) from the recognition that it's all real. The paralyzed best friend is actually paralyzed, etc. Not a single scene feels simulated or “written.” Zhao not only limns a quadrant of the American West we rarely see, but does so while mapping bold new territory between documentary and narrative filmmaking. It absolutely blew me away.

(Scene review by Sam Allard, 5/30/18: breathtaking to look at and unrelenting in its emotional force...stunning cinema.) 

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Hunky Jason Momoa Can't Save Waterlogged 'Aquaman,' DC Extended Universe Still Trash

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 3:12 PM

Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman
  • Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman
Aquaman, the latest and brightest detritus leaking from the DC Extended Universe's garbage can, stars Jason Momoa as a half-man, half-Atlantan meta-human who can breathe underwater and speak to fish. The bloated two-and-a-half hour action epic is visually indistinguishable from a Lisa Frank folder.

In keeping with DC's model, character development takes a back seat to special effects. And so we've got, among things, armies of sea creatures waging war underwater in such florid aquatic spectacles that it's probably safer to view in sunglasses. We've also got multiple settings: the desert sands of Africa, the cobbled streets of Sicily, the seaside bars of Massachusetts and the palatial ruins of Atlantis itself, "somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic," all of which are staging grounds for enormous, explosive sequences at the hands of director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring).

As an origin story, which this film ought to have been — notwithstanding Aquaman's introduction in 2016's Batman V Superman and his appearance in 2017's Justice League — it sucks. We've got a single, pre-title-card scene of no more than 90 seconds. It's young Arthur Curry, getting bullied in an aquarium and then calming a shark down with an outstretched hand. The other fish converge — it looks as if Arthur is controlling them through the glass — and the children gape at their classmate's power! Later on, we've got some "training" flashbacks in which a teenage Arthur learns cool fight moves from an Atlantan vizier, whose name is Vulko, (Willem Dafoe).  

Most of the names are just as ridiculous and hard to make out. King Orm? King Atlan? King Nereus? One of the villains, whose B-storyline awkwardly threads with what is, ultimately, a King Arthur retelling, is a pirate who assumes the very stupid moniker "Black Manta" (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). It corresponds with his very stupid outfit, which includes a helmet in the shape of Family Guy's Stewie Griffin's head and allows him to shoot laser beams out of his eyes.  

Incidentally, what's up with Atlantis? Do any of these sea people have jobs? Where are all these insane high-tech underwater guns coming from? Where, for that matter, are all the women? As best I can remember, there were only two, one of whom, Queen Atlanna, (Nicole Kidman), was banished after she deigned to reproduce with a human man — hence, Aquaman; and the other of whom is nicknamed Mera, (Amber Heard), a princess who may or may not be Aquaman's half-sister, but is certainly betrothed to King Orm (Patrick Wilson), Aquaman's half-brother, and is also of course Aquaman's romantic interest.

She looks distractingly like a live-action Little Mermaid. At one point, in a representative stab at humor, she takes a big bite out of a bouquet of roses after sniffing it. Get it, she's a fish out of water!

The whole narrative may be read as a video game. There are silly minor tasks — Solve the puzzle! Capture the trident!; various levels and boards; and even a final boss — "The Karathen," voiced by none other than Julie Andrews.

All that said, Jason Momoa is not only a stunning physical presence but is gruff and charming in the lead role. He instantly elevates Aquaman above the likes of the abominable Batman V Superman, which was not only bad but somber to boot. Momoa may or may not be taking things seriously, but his occasional levity — even in the confines of a bad script — beats the dour constipation of Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne.

Aquaman opens in wide release tonight. 

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Cinematheque to Host a Special Poverty Row Film Series in Early 2019

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2018 at 1:48 PM

  • Courtesy of the CIA Cinematheque
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, independent productions flourished on Hollywood’s Poverty Row, a strip of Gower Street between Sunset Boulevard and the Paramount lot. The companies produced low-budget genre films that often had “strange, illusive qualities” not found in major studio movies and tackled taboo subjects like venereal disease and “medical quackery.”

The UCLA Film & Television Archive preserves and restores these rare and endangered works, and in January, the Cleveland Cinematheque will present six of those films in a program dubbed Down & Dirty in Gower Gulch: Poverty Row Films Preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cinematheque to Screen the Operatic Films of Luchino Visconti Next Year

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 2:35 PM

  • Courtesy of the CIA Cinematheque
  • A scene from The Innocent.
During November and December of last year, the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque presented digital restorations or 35mm prints of five films by the late Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti.

Since then, a complete Visconti retrospective put together by Istituto Luce Cinecittà in Rome has come to North America and is traveling to a variety of museums and cinematheques, including the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, where it'll land next year.

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